When Tiger Woods announced he was taking time away from golf to have surgery on his back, with no immediate timetable for his return, most of the focus was understandably on his chase for Jack Nicklaus‘s major championship record. After all, you can’t win more if you aren’t playing, right?
The same thing can’t necessarily be said of the No. 1 spot in the world ranking. Held by Woods for an astonishing 683 weeks over his career, that title is going to be given away this week in his absence. Then again, the man who will take over at the top for the first time, Adam Scott, won’t be attending the Byron Nelson Championship, either.
That’s the inherent sticking point – flaw? – of the Official World Golf Ranking system. Scott has had four chances recently to overtake Woods with his play, and each time he’s come up short. He missed out at Bay Hill in March with a Sunday 76 to blow a one-time seven-stroke lead, and after rallying just to make the cut at The PLAYERS Championship this past week, a disappointing tie for 38th was a moral victory at best.
Scott will move to No. 1 after the Nelson thanks to two things – Woods’s absence and the strength of fields in the tournaments he plays. Scott has played only seven PGA Tour events this season, but with the bonus points for the big tournaments he plays and the fact that even his lower finishes are still quite solid by comparison, he’s earned his way to the top. As Woods loses points in the two-year cycle thanks to inactivity, Scott’s consistency has gotten him to the pinnacle for the first time.
None of this is to say Scott doesn’t deserve to be there, of course. He’s played some of the best golf on the planet over the last year and a half, and when you do that, you don’t need to be out there all the time. Scott routinely takes care of business when he shows up, and that’s all that matters.
There are several players who could move up quickly to challenge Scott, including guys like Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth. Even Woods himself could quickly take the title back if he comes back healthy this summer, which isn’t out of the question.
Golf fans, prepare for a summer filled with drama. The FedEx Cup chase, three more majors, and now the world’s No. 1 ranking all hang in the balance. Buckle up tight, this is going to be a fun ride.